Day 40 of WHO declaring COVID 19 a Pandemic and 5th week into a lockdown in India, there is little doubt that we are facing an unimaginable occurrence of economic slowdown. Some call it a natural disaster and some man made.
Whatever it may be, it has definitely taught us to operate on basics, be conservative, make use of local resources and the true value of freedom and life. Just as individuals, Corporate, Conglomerates and Countries have realized the significance of investing in self reliance.
But with serendipity comes new challenges. Those of , right or wrongs, implementations, satisfaction, contentment, above all, the P n L statement never fails to remind its existence. Not very long ago the Healthcare industry was deemed fairly recession –free.
Covid 19 has drastically changed this notion. As much as the teeny virus is to blame much is also to be owned by policies of the RBI, Government, Insurance Agencies, Pharmaceutical Companies. On one hand the CAPEX cost in private Hospitals has exponentially increased from 1 lac per bed to 1 Crore per bed in the last 10 years.
On the other, the revenues of hospitals and diagnostic companies have sunk by about 60-70%. Protecting the lives and safety of Patients, Nurses, Technicians and Doctors is a foremost responsibility of all those working in the Healthcare. But, safety comes at a cost.
The question is, who will bear it? The patient cannot, as he has become poorer due to lack of work and wages. The Doctor cannot as she has a list of EMI along with her own employees to pay for. The nurse cannot as she is the sole bread winner in a family of 5.
The Employer in the Private Healthcare sector can barely meet the cost of PPE, masks, ventilators so long as there is an inflow of paying patients. In this scenario Government is the last respite for most of us. It is time to revive the system of allocating GDP towards Health. 1.3% is nowhere even close to fulfilling the basic requirements.
It is predicted that with the global shrinking of GDP by 3%, India’s GDP growth will nosedive to 1.9% in which case the loss to Private Healthcare industry and our national health will be abysmal.
“COVID 19 has blown the bugle for Private Health Sector to buckle up towards investing in creative efficient talent, devising innovative methods of fee for service and considerate cost cutting.” says Prof. Dr. Nirmal Coumare, Medical Director of a 1400 bedded teaching Hospital affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Pondicherry.
However this cannot be overcome without help from the Government who should facilitate a reliable credit line for Hospital owners and Biotech and Pharma industrialists, waivers on taxes, incentivize home productions and promote research and a technology driven Healthcare.
Only when we reduce our dependence on other countries for components in healthcare and become self-reliant, we can say “Our health is in our hands”.
(The author is Dr. Swati Deshmukh Pawar, Deputy Medical Superintendent, MGMCRI, Pondichery. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)